While some could argue that we are living in a troubled generation, others (including myself) could argue that we are also living in one of the most creative and vibrant generations to ever grace the planet. More people are expressing themselves and using art as an outlet for creativity, as a way to express their passion, and leave their mark on the world. This applies even more so to those involved in the music world. You can't really explain it unless you've done it, but being around the music world inspires creativity. There's just something about the energy that surrounds a concert, or a tour, or a festival; all these creative minds coming together fosters a plethora of ideas. Social networks, apps, clothing lines, you name it.
For Travis Reilly, vocalist for This Is Hell, that creative outlet was music. Reilly is the head of Private Hell Apparel, a clothing company based out of New York. I got to speak with Reilly back in June about the inception of the company, his inspiration behind the designs, and the kind of influence he hopes the apparel will have in the world of music fashion.
Where did the clothing line idea first come from? I had first heard about you through This Is Hell, and I feel like being in a band that tours and works that hectically doesn’t allow for a lot of downtime on the road, so I’m curious as to where the idea came from?
Maybe about eight years ago? At that time, This Is Hell was pretty full-on. I did for a little while and then didn’t really pay attention because I was just so busy touring, you know? But about three years ago, This Is Hell played the last show that we’ve played. We haven’t split up, but we’re inactive. When I knew that we were gonna be winding down and not doing anything, I wanted to start something up again. Being in a band, you kind of get to be your own boss. You have record labels, you have people working for you, but at the end of the day, it’s your decision and what you do as a band. It’s the same concept with running your own brand. I get to call the shots and work from home. Obviously, it’s not extremely lucrative, but at least you get to call your own shots. So I knew that I wasn’t going to be touring a lot and that I’d be able to focus on it.
I’ve got to ask, where did the “Don’t Tread On Me” insignia come from? Where did that logo come into play?
I don’t remember specifically how. I was just brainstorming with my friend Will. He did the last two This Is Hell album covers. He did the art for it and some t-shirts for us. He’s a great artist from England. I hit him up, told him I was going to do this brand, and that I wanted him to do the logo for it. (With my first idea), I really liked the New York Mets logo, and I wanted to do a play on that. I don’t know why, but I was like, “it’d be cool if you could do that NY logo, but make it [made out of] rope.” He messed around with it, and said it’s not gonna work. For some reason, I think I saw the “Don’t Tread On Me” snake. I thought that would look really cool, and with the same idea. So I had him draw it, and it came out really good. It’s a very strong logo.
When I launched the first line, everything was pretty much just that logo on everything: on a shirt, crewneck, leggings. The feedback I got on it was great. I was excited to have a logo that was…it’s like a strong band logo. You see a shirt with it, and it doesn’t even say the band name, but you see the logo and you know immediately who it is. I feel like I’ve achieved that with this. I feel like it doesn’t even need to say “Private Hell” on it. Well, maybe not at this point, but soon enough, people will look at it and go, “oh, that’s what that is.”
How many people do you have working on the team behind Private Hell?
(laughs) My dog, whose sitting right next to me. I mean, it’s just myself as far as involved in the company. I handle all of the orders and stuff like that. Basically, I run it out of my apartment. I still tour a little bit. Once This Is Hell stopped, I started doing merch for bands. So I still tour occasionally, but not as heavy as I did. When I’m out doing that, my wife will handle mail order for me. As far as the company itself, it’s just me really. I hire my friends to do art and design stuff. I have a friend with a merch company, and I pay him to make the shirts.
It’s one of things where, when I was starting my own brand, I thought of it as a way for me to also pay my friends, instead of just paying some random design or merch company. It’s like, “alright, well any money that I’m spending is at least going to my friends’ pockets.”
You’re based in New York City. How would you say that, if at all, the culture of that city has played into the designs you’ve created with the artists?
I don’t know! I was doing an interview yesterday, actually, and I was saying how, when they asked me how I come with the designs, I’ll usually just see something walking around and say “oh, that’s cool,” or I’ll see something that sparks an idea. Sometimes I’ll forget about it and I’ll remember later, or I’ll make a note of it in my phone. Then two months later, I’ll look at my phone and be like, “What the fuck? What was I even talking about?” (laughs) And hopefully I’ll remember what it was.
I wasn’t born in New York City; I was born in Long Island. But I’ve lived in Brooklyn for about six years now. You know, it’s great here. It’s so diverse. Like I said, I don’t know if that plays into it, but probably subconsciously.
Fashion and culture are literally always changing. As time goes on, what kind of influence on music fashion do you hope to create with Private Hell?
Music fashion is so crazy. I mean, within different scenes and subgenres, you can almost look at someone and go, “oh this person’s into that”. I kind of always liked that a lot of times people would judge This Is Hell based on band promo shots. They’ll say “oh they look like this”. Then they hear us and be like “Oh.” So I almost hope to have that, where you see someone wearing a Private Hell shirt, and you’ll be like “Oh this person must be blah-blah-blah because of this.” But they’re not, you know.
I also hope that, being that it’s mine, the ideas are mine, and that I approve the designs and think that the art work is great, I think a lot of bands and brands…a lot of stuff now is just obnoxious for the sake of being obnoxious. Hopefully, the style (of fashion) becomes a little cleaner, and focuses on the style, art and artist, instead of being like “oh, this says [insert stupid phrase] on the shirt”. That’s going to fade away in a couple months.